Mitch Easter and The dB's


Mitch Easter: ‘The Fifth Member of The dB’s’
Played a Key Role In Early Indie Rock History
Read Mick's feature to learn why Mitch has been 
 nicknamed "the fifth member" of The dB's
Mitch has remained active in 
music as an in-demand producer
BY MICK DILLINGHAM

NOTE from Rob: I'm awed that Mick, a music blogger and contributor to the legendary Bucketfull of Brains music mag, is making this contribution to The dB’s Repercussion. Mick quotes extensively from interviews with Mitch he conducted some years ago for a B.O.B. feature that didn’t get published (he also provided several of the photos). Even if you know a lot of the facts of Mitch’s connections to The dB’s, you’ll probably learn stuff you didn’t know before by reading this piece. Have a look at one of Mick's (aka Jay’s) cool blogs: http://artintodust.blogspot.com/
 


Peter Holsapple says legendary North Carolina musician and producer Mitch Easter is the coolest guy around, and in this assertion he is probably right.
Rock 'n' Roll High School: Reynolds in Winston-Salem, NC
L-R: Chris Stamey, Ted Lyons, Will Rigby, Mitch Easter,
Faye Hunter, Peter Holsapple, Gene Holder

Peter and Chris have been friends with Mitch since early school days and though, until the new album, Mitch has had no direct involvement with the dB’s recorded output, he has often sat in and played live with them from the earliest days in New York City in the late seventies right up to this year. And of course prior to The dB’s, they were in various local bands together.

Mitch playing with The dB's at Cat's Cradle (probably early 1980s)
 
Rittenhouse Square were a local heavy progressive covers band formed in the summer of 1971. Its first line up was Bobby Locke on drums, Gene Vance on vocals, Ken Lowry on guitars and Guy Baugess on bass, soon enough replaced by David Niblock. The band became well know for their performances of the complete Tommy at coffee-house gigs.

What else does he need? 
A young Mitch with the hair, the guitar, the clothes
Mitch: “I really can’t remember much about Rittenhouse #1 except their guitar player, Ken Lowry, was one of those sort of defeated kids who would get grumpy at any talk of success beyond the kid garage band world. I always thought that was a bummer, like, Let Me Dream!”

When that line up split, Lowry joined the short-lived Ice alongside Chris Stamey, Peter Holsapple and Robin Borthwick, the drummer from Mitch’s old band from 1968, the Imperturbable Teutonic Griffin (a name conjured up by Chris). Meantime Locke and Niblock put together a new line up of some of the best local players around Michael Rosinger, Kent Hill, Don Gibbs and the now available Mitch Easter. By all accounts an impressive live band indeed, doing “Whipping Post”, “Speed King” and note-for-note versions of Yes’ “Yours Is No Disgrace”. They were the first local band to play their own show at Reynolds High School Auditorium.

Peter H, getting an early start in rock

When that second line up fell apart, Mitch and Locke decided to form a new band. Locke was adamant that they kept the name Rittenhouse Square to capitalise on the success they had already gained. Mitch wasn’t certain just what success Locke was talking about, but acquiesced because he was also adamant about something. That was they should also be doing original material not just covers. When Locke agreed they asked Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple to join on bass and guitar respectively. Peter had previously been playing in Wazoo, a covers band featuring a really good vocalist Bob Northcott and one Will Rigby on drums.

Mitch: “It was promising at first, we had the talented and fun Peter Holsapple along, and since we were all bad singers, we all sang which was a first for me and Chris, at least. Plus, there was that motherlode of Wishbone Ash songs to work up, what with our guitar-harmony capability and all. I believe it was Ash's ‘Error of My Ways’ that made us cut that out. After that we started writing songs, which were just horrible.” Live they were still doing stuff like Humble Pie, The Move’s “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited” and “Teenage Head” by the Flamin’ Groovies.

    Bobby Locke, drummer    
Mitch: “I was really big on going in the studio back in those days, I was the one who would make us go do these tapes but there wasn't really much to do with them. We'd just make them and we'd just hope that somebody would fall out of the sky and discover us.”

They recorded six tracks during a midnight to dawn session down at Crescent City Sound in Greensboro, NC with the optimistic intention of capturing the heavy but melodic sound of Message From the Country era Move. Mitch had been a big Move fan from when Chris Stamey had first played him Shazam in 1970. Mitch wrote four of the songs and Peter two. They were too young and inexperienced to really pull it off ultimately, but they certainly gave it a go.

Mitch: “The stupid thing about it, that you can never hear listening to it, the thing that I wanted to be at that time was Message From the Country vintage Move. I just didn't have the brains to accomplish that, but that's what I was thinking. The stuff that we actually did was like the heavy riffs, sort of like metal, except we weren't thinking metal at all. It was really just guitar, bass and drums. Me and Peter played guitar, Chris played bass and Bobby Locke played drums and I think there was a smidgen of electric piano on there but it was pretty much a grinding guitar record.”

  The album they're trying to forget!  
They played some local clubs to capacity crowds but Mitch and Chris were by then more interested in the whole recording process and playing live was not high on the list of priorities. Arrangements were made for the band to spend the summer in New York staying at an apartment Mitch’s father kept there, but Peter’s parents said he was too young. When they put their foot down, he reluctantly withdrew from the band. By the start of ’72 the band were no more, but then in a strange postscript, Bobby Locke who still had the tapes of their sessions decided to press up some copies on vinyl. Mitch, Chris and Peter had nothing to do with the record coming out and actually were all horrified at the time because they didn't think the session had turned out very well. But they didn't try to stop him and the next thing they knew, it was out. Well, kind of. Bobby had got the record pressed but did not have the finances to get a cover printed.

Mitch: “There's like a limited edition, of about twenty, that have these cardboard sleeves that are silk screened by hand. Actually after the record came out and I accepted that fact I made those sleeves. I realised that was going nowhere fast so I just sort of disappeared from doing it. Then the drummer went on and got those sleeves made up from this horrible publicity picture that we had taken wearing matching shirts taken behind the old Reznick’s record store where Holsapple was working at the time. A really hideous picture, and he had these printed on those sleeves that have a hole in the middle, so there's four bodies there but all our middles are missing because of the hole, so all the ones that exist have that sleeve as far as I know.”

  Rhythm Method, with Gene Holder on bass (lower left)
In 1973 Bobby Locke went off and became the drummer in the much-rated Rhythm Method alongside guitarist Sam Moss, Chuck Dale Smith and on bass Gene Holder. Earlier that same year Chris Stamey got a Teac 4-track machine, that was when they first came out, and he and Mitch started making tapes down in the Easter basement for the next two years and this was where both of them really learned the basics of how to do recording.

Mitch: “We set to work recording some of the most insufferable cute-heavy rock this side of the Idle Race. The tapes were really crude, in a way, because we didn't even have a mixer we just plugged the microphones right into the machine and just went. So a lot of stuff is real rough sounding, but to us, we were breaking down all kinds of barriers, we thought. There are a couple of tracks that I'm proud of that would be nice for people to hear, the only thing is the singing is the most god-awful thing you ever heard of and its pretty embarrassing. I don't know if the public could get past the singing. I expected to get signed immediately and go straight from High School to Atlantic Records. Many rejection form-letters later, I was in college, still doing the Teac tapes.”

A truly bitchin' Little Diesel T-shirt
The pair also had a couple of short lived bands, just to keep their hands in with playing live, though Mitch resigned himself to playing covers again just so they could get booked. There was Gander’s Mettle, then The Bean with Auburn Collins on vocals, Jerry Solomon on drums and Mitch’s girlfriend since 9th grade, Faye Hunter on bass. The Bean did a mean version of Zappa’s “Tell Me You Love Me”.  And after that, Big Dipper with Jerry Solomon, Gino Grandinetti and Ed Bumgardner. They only played a couple of shows, one a "Battle of the Bands" along with Little Diesel, the band Bob Northcott and Will Rigby had formed after Holsapple left Wazoo (neither band won). But Mitch and Chris were more interested in getting down the basement with the four-track. It was just so free because they didn't have to convince other guys in the band to play these songs, the two of them just did them. Mitch played drums and took up playing cello and saxophone (again inspired by what Roy Wood was up to).

Mitch (drums) & Chris Stamey   
Teens run amuck in the
basement with a 4-track recorder!
Mitch: “Chris and I just made tapes of astounding hopelessness, listening as we were to Blossom Toes and the Idle Race. But we learned a lot from that time in the basement because we were doing everything, playing new instruments and getting a sense of how a track was put together. Of course, the finished songs were unlistenable, but for me it was a glimpse of some kind of 'Art Grandeur', it was way different from just being the guitar player. I think both of us learned about recording from that. We had almost no equipment but it didn't feel like a hindrance, because we at least had lots of time. Before that, we had gone into real studios, and the money ran out so fast there was no chance to do much more than just crank it out and hope nobody screwed up. The ‘Basement Era’ was the start of attempted creativity in recording for us. And, we needed to record something, so we were trying to write songs all the time”

One of several iterations of Little Diesel (Will Rigby, drums)
At the end of ‘73 Holsapple attended a Little Diesel show and reunited with his former Wazoo band mates when Northcott and Rigby talked him into joining. Little Diesel were mainly a covers band but willfully so, ensuing the southern rock and Honky Tonk Woman covers that would have guaranteed them constant gigs for songs by Big Star, Family, The Move, Free, Spirit, Fairport Convention and The Electric Prunes. Despite generally going down like a lead balloon they played quite a few shows.  Soon after they spent a long afternoon or two in Chris Stamey's bedroom with the Teac reel to reel recording a basically live in the bedroom album of covers and a few of Holsapple originals and adding some overdubs one afternoon the week after. The finished album was then released on eight-track cassette and was limited to twenty copies.

By the summer of ‘75, Peter Holsapple had fallen in love and, distracted, lost interest in playing music altogether. Chris Stamey came in on bass, Mitch on guitar and a second drummer Chris Chamis completed what now became The Little Diesel Big Band, who recorded a bunch of song at the NC School of Arts and played a handful of shows before finally drifting apart.

Pedestrians: L-R, Chris, Robert Keely, Mitch, 
Rob Slater, and Will in front. All washed up...
By the time Mitch and Chris had gone off to college together at UNC-Chapel Hill, they had four basement “albums” completed. Mitch didn't want to be at college, which to him seem pointless and was just full of old hippies at the time. He just wanted to be playing music. He wanted a band of his own but didn’t know how to go about this. In ‘76 Chris Stamey started a college band of his own, The Pedestrians, enlisting Easter and Will Rigby along with bass player Robert Keely. The first time the group played turned out to be a bit of a disaster with all sorts of farcical things going wrong.

Mitch: “What had happened, to give you the exact details, is that the first time the group played I was playing with them and it was this really, funny, disastrous show. Things happened like Chris was playing an acoustic guitar and it exploded while he was playing it — the head just fell off. It was like his world debut, as a star, the first time he'd had his own group where he was singing and everything and all those things going wrong really upset him and at the end of the show everyone was really dispirited. We didn't get back together for awhile and then Chris was actually afraid to ask me to play with him anymore because he just thought that I wouldn't do it after that night. But the fact was I didn't really care one way or the other.”

L-R: Will, Mitch, Chris, Robert Keely, Rob Slater, and  
um ...unidentified guy. photo by Rebecca Johnson, Durham, NC 1976
Sneakers found soon enough that they couldn't really get booked to play anywhere, being neither a hard or country rock covers band which, at the time, was all the locals were interested in.  So instead they rehearsed a lot and then rehearsed some more because there was nothing else to do. Soon after Stamey arranged to take a class down in New York for a few weeks and stumbled across the burgeoning indie scene just starting up. He saw Television play down at CBGB quite a few times, but more importantly he got a hold of their indie released “Little Johnny Jewel” single, and it just changed his life.  He got a haircut and came back and was all fired up with the idea of the Sneakers putting out an independent record. He was really ahead to be doing that because, there really weren't many at that time. So he started up Carnivorous Records (later shortened to just Car), though really it was just him sitting in his bedroom doing it all.

Sneakers - the 6-track debut EP
Sneakers recorded six tracks on the trusty Teac Four Track at a local venue in NC, Cat’s Cradle, and finished them off at a friend's house after they were asked to leave the club so the floors could be mopped. Don Dixon engineered it and then Chris, thinking it still a bit lacking, asked Mitch to come down and add some acoustic guitar. Chris Chamis and Robert Kirkland chipped in some percussion and then the whole thing was mixed down at Reflection Sound Studio in Charlotte, NC. He got the records manufactured by this place in Nashville that normally did gospel groups and school bands and just had them shipped back to his house. He put an ad in Trouser Press, and also got it reviewed there which helped, and then — much to everyone’s amazement and probably because there were so few independent labels at the time, he got just thousands of letters. It was almost all mail order at first, then after that, it got picked up by some distributors and it sold something like eight thousand copies and went to four or five pressings. The review in Trouser Press compared them to the then still relatively unknown Big Star. This meant a lot because they were all big fans ever since Will Rigby travelled up to Raleigh, NC in search of Big Star’s #1 back in ‘72.

Sneakers were here, once.
Hair today: Mitch in NYC, '76
With Mitch back in the band, they set about rehearsing with renewed vigour. It still wasn't like there was a world of clubs out there that they could go to. After a few local shows, one on campus, at the Apple Chill Street Festival and at an old converted department store called The Town Hall, Stamey got them a slot supporting the Silhouettes at the legendary Max's Kansas City in New York. That was like a big event for them, but it was just one night.

Mitch: “We came back home and played a couple of shows, but it was really weird because we'd be playing in these clubs that traditionally had heavy rock cover bands and there would be some guy in the audience who had dimly heard that we'd played New York and he'd be yelling these insults to us like ‘Hey, fuckin' New Yorker, go away’ — it was weird and confused. Half the audience would hate us, they didn't know what we were doing but all we were doing was just playing rock music. At the time it was well polarised.”

That lineup played at most ten times and then in ‘77, Stamey left college in North Carolina and upped and moved to New York to attend university there. That, for all intent and purposes, was the end of the band. Meanwhile back in Chapel Hill, Mitch and Peter Holsapple had started doing some tapes up in Mitch’s bedroom together, very much as he and Stamey had a couple of years before. Back when the first Sneakers record had come out, Kim Fowley had discovered that they had got some press and he had started calling up Mitch and Chris.

Kim Fowley: big talker...
Mitch: “He was going to make us famous, you know. He would call up and he would say things to us like: ‘OK, I'm going to be bringing you out to L.A. pretty soon now, if you've got girlfriends or anything I want you to get your relationship with them really squared away because when you get to L.A. these L.A. chicks are really going to fuck with your head, man’. He was saying things like that to us on the phone and we're just going ‘Oh, OK’. Then the Sneakers broke up and he called about the time that the H-Bombs were getting off the ground and said, ‘OK, I'm really ready to do something this time, send me a picture of your band right now’. So the H-Bombs were really formed so that we could send a picture to this guy. We thought if we could get a trip to L.A. and play out there it would be fun and so we called up a couple of guys that were around and we thought, might potentially form a band.”
The two guys they had called up were Robert Keely, who had played bass with The Sneakers, and Chris Chamis who they had played with in The Little Diesel Big Band. Keely and Chamis were at that point in a band Aliens with Tommy Eshelman from Little Diesel.  They sent the pictures off, heard nothing more from Fowley, but the four of them decided to start practising together. With an eye to the new wave and punk scene now breaking out all over America by the fall of ’77, they turned up the guitars and became H-Bombs. By that time the live music scene in the area, known as The Triangle, was starting to stir. They played street festivals, on campus and at venues such as The Mad Hatter and the Cambridge Inn to the usual half-hearted crowds, who by then were starting to catch the punk bug and were not quite sure of what to make of the band.

H-Bombs: Robert Keely, Peter, Mitch, Chris Chamis
Alex Chilton and the Cossacks were playing a couple of shows on December 6th and 7th at Max’s Kansas City in New York, and H-Bombs were offered the support slot. This was big news for a local group and when they returned they found they had mysteriously achieved semi-cult status as a result. Happy to capitalise on this radio and print ads called now called the group “punk rock from New York City” and urged the curious to “come and see what this punk rock is all about.” Alongside such combos as Th’Cigaretz, Butchwax and the Fabulous Knobs, H-Bombs were pioneers in getting the local punk/ indie scene really going. For the live shows Holsapple and Keely were keen on adding a theatrical edge handing out flyers called Biohazard Informae with self-penned reviews of previous gigs and concluding “This means something, this is IMPORTANT!”

  H-Bombs: more 'zines than gigs   
At Cat’s Cradle, H-Bombs liberally decorated their stage with radios, televisions, sofas and floor lamps to give the illusion of playing in a living room. At one Duke University show, they had a smartly dressed friend seated in front of the stage the whole time reading a newspaper seeming oblivious to the band blasting away five feet behind him. During Easter’s song "Bomb Scare", Keely wore a gas mask. Trouble was while they were styling themselves neo punk and could certainly play with a certain garage aggression, they couldn’t help but show — with incredibly catchy melodies and hooks (they had a repertoire of over fifty songs) — that their true leanings were more Move and Big Star than the Pistols. Mitch’s penchant for sudden tempo twists and unexpected chord changes meant they were never basic enough to fully click with the by now mostly blindly punk audiences.

H-Bombs play Cat's Cradle: Robert Keely, Peter & Mitch
At the end of the spring semester in ’78, they got tired of playing to the same forty or so devoted fans they had acquired and Mitch and Peter returned to recording up in his bedroom. Then Chris Stamey called them up with the idea they could maybe do some recording with Alex Chilton producing at Trod Nossel Studios in Connecticut. The pair had already been up there right at the start of H-Bombs with Alan Betrock and Stamey.

Alex Chilton: hands-off music "producer"
Mitch: “I don't think the second Trod Nossel session was seen as an H-Bomb’s record. Somehow Peter and I seemed to think of recording as our thing, I think we thought the band was more for playing live and maybe those guys weren't as interested in recording. Which was probably unfair, but that's what I remember. I think mainly we were just eager to record in a real studio!”

The mighta been "H-Bombs" EP
So the pair headed up to Connecticut again and recorded four of their H-Bomb songs a piece. Chilton, tired of New York and ready to move on, was being vague about his input once they were in the studio, and did not really take part. All they ended up with by the end of the session was a tape of eight half-finished rough mixes. From this Stamey offered Holsapple the idea putting out a single on his label Car using three of these tracks and overdubbing at Mega Sound. “Big Black Truck”, credited to Peter Holsapple and the H-Bombs, came out in the late spring and features Mitch on drums and Chris on backing vocals. Stamey also wanted to do a Sneakers mini album pieced together from what ever was around. Mitch contributed two songs “Decline And Fall” and “Quelle Folie” started at Trod Nossel, overdubbing on the Teac up in Chapel Hill and then finished off and Mega Sound and then mixed at Arther Smith studios in Charlotte, NC.

Trod Nossel studio, as it may have looked in '78
Mitch: “The Trod Nossel bits on In the Red aren't from when Peter and I recorded there. I think I went there on another earlier occasion and sang things like ‘Decline and Fall’ with Alan Betrock being there as a producer. Chris did some bits and pieces on his songs then, too, I can't remember what, exactly. But for example, the piano swoops and plinks on ‘Decline and Fall’ were done at that session by Chris. Anyway, nothing from my part of the session with Alex Chilton has ever been used.” He also included a short bedroom recorded instrumental “Mark Peril Theme” with Faye Hunter on flute. Chris contributed three tracks: “The Perfect Stranger”, recorded in Chapel Hill on the Teac with Mitch and Robert Keely and then finished off in New York; “What I Dig” and “Be My Ambulance” were started off in Trod Nossel, then overdubbed in Chapell Hill with Mitch and Keely. Finally the whole thing is topped off with a live version of “Roadrunner” taken from a four-piece Sneakers’ show at Duke University in 1975. This became the In The Red mini album. 

Sneakers' 2nd release: pretty dang cool
At the start of May, Stamey played at CBGB with Frank Kowalski on keyboards, Chilton on percussion, Mitch on drums and Gene Holder on bass. Chris had become friends with Gene back at UNC, and Holder had previously been in The Rhythm Method (with Sam Moss, Bobby Locke and Chuck Dale Smith) before college and had just moved up to New York. Peter Holsapple thought otherwise and a few days after Sneakers’ In The Red mini album and his single, released on the same day, came out he packed his bags and moved to Memphis without them. This put an end to H-Bombs. Keely and Chamis soon after formed the power pop band Secret Service with Bob Northcott and a guitarist Gardner Govan. 

Rear of In the Red mini LP
(featuring art by Faye Hunter)

H-Bombs never released a record. There was announcement of an EP with double lead in grooves (an idea based on one of the Monty Python albums that had just that gimmick) in the local press. Each side had two lots of two tracks (eight tracks in all), which you could play only by where the needle started. But the whole thing was an elaborate hoax cooked up by the band and local writer Fred Mills. Will Rigby succeeded in getting a review of this imaginary record into The Daily Tarheel campus newspaper. The editor failed to notice that it was in fact a review Rigby had written for the Sneakers’ EP (for the self-same publication) two years before, with just the names and a few details changed.

Track listing from the Drive-In, R.E.M.'s first single
image courtesy of Sound on Sound
In 1980, The dB’s were by then sorting out a proper record deal and in the meantime working on tracks for their first album, mostly recording in New York and they turned up to mix three songs at Mitch’s recently opened Drive-In Studio with Don Dixon and music writer Alan Betrock. Mitch was busy getting the studio ready when they arrived, so he left them to it. The hole in the wall for the glass between the control room and the live room hadn't been made yet. So while Chris Stamey, Alan Betrock and Don Dixon were in the control room, Gene Holder and Mitch were in the garage on the other side of the wall with a power saw for cutting a hole for the window, without really considering what was going on the other side. There was this great moment when they finally got all the way round and the plaster fell out with a earth shaking crash to reveal through the new hole the startled faces of those mixing the tracks.

Peter, Chris & Mitch in the UK, 1981
At the start of ’81, The dB’s did an English tour in support of their now completed debut album Stands for deciBels and asked Mitch to go with them as their sound man. Mitch: “That was just a nice thing they did for me. They wanted somebody who knew their stuff to mix them instead of somebody who had never heard of them before. They thought it would be a nice trip for me, which it was, and they just paid my way."

Peter Holsapple had met guitarist  Kimberley Rew when the Soft Boys had played The Eighties Club in New York the previous August. And when they arrived in England they gave him a call. The Soft Boys had split by then and Rew was going to record a single, “My Baby Does Her Hairdo Long” that weekend down at Advision Studios in London. At that same time, The dB’s were in town to appear on "The Old Grey Whistle Test" (UK music television show). Rew asked the band if they would like to produce and back him on the record, and Mitch went along too. Gene Holder and Mitch actually tossed a coin to see who would play bass and who would produce. Gene won, and Mitch played bass and added backing vocals to the three tracks recorded.

Mitch:  “It was fun because I'd always wanted to go to that studio because it's where The Move records like Shazam were done and all those Yes records, I just wanted to see the place.”

On February 12th, 1985 Mitch’s band Let’s Active played the first Awareness Benefit concert at Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem along with The dB’s and Chris Stamey. The dB’s line up by this time consisted of Peter Holsapple, Will Rigby, Gene Holder, now on guitar and new guy Jeff Beninato (replacing Rick Wagner) on bass. Don Dixon came on for the encore, and afterwards a whole bunch of them went to Drive-In and recorded a version of Z.Z. Top’s "Tush". Faye Hunter left Let’s Active towards the end of 1985 and they had to quickly draft in some old friends to cover the end of the tour.
Faye Hunter, founding member of Let's Active

Mitch told Fred Mills at the time, “We just did a bunch of shows with various past and present dB's on bass. We did two shows with Chris Stamey and that was pretty groovy, one of those was filmed for the IRS 'Cutting Edge' programme on MTV. Then Chris went on tour with the Golden Palominos so we continued with Gene Holder playing bass, which was cool because he doesn't play bass with The dB's, he's now their guitar player [ie, late 1980s]. During those shows we continued our tradition of doing covers designed to offend the audience, like 'Hush', of course it was the Deep Purple version which was a real rouser and ‘Back Of A Car’ by Big Star too. We also tried to do ‘Call Me Animal’ by the MC5 but we were too winded at the end of it. so I don't know if we'll keep doing that one but it sure is a good song.”

Faye Hunter & others contributed
After Let’s Active, Faye went on to be in Chris Stamey’s band for a while. In ‘87 she wrote and recorded four tracks down at Water Music Studios down in Hoboken, NJ with various dB’s, Janet Wygal and Amy Rigby backing her. One track “Blinded” turned up on The Water Music Compilation. The rest, along with a number of tracks recorded soon after with Randy Everett at the Terminal, remain unreleased. In ‘88 she also sang backing vocals on most of Chris Stamey’s Fireworks, an album on which Mitch also plays and engineers a bit. But after that she retired from music altogether. That year Mitch also appeared Chris Stamey’s A&M album It's Alright, doing production, engineering and guitars.

Sneakers - the first compilation
In ’92 East Side Digital, who had been working with Chris Stamey on an expanded CD version of Wonderful Life, came up with the thought that it was time to release Sneakers’ output on CD. Mitch and Chris dug out the master tapes to see what could be done to improve them. They set about remixing, over-dubbing and re-recording, vastly improving the music and even recorded six more unreleased Sneakers songs to create an excellent, if not for some purists, entirely historically accurate collection.

Mitch played with Chris Stamey’s Big Band (guitarists Jeff Hart and Brent Lambert, drummer John Howe and Mitch on bass) for a few shows in the summer of ’95, and this led to another SXSW appearance.

Mitch: “The '95 show in Austin was actually this big sprawling thing, with a bunch of people on stage. Chris and I had played together in Chapel Hill a time or two around that time, but I seem to recall this show as having lots of NYC and Hoboken people involved, too… another one-off.”

Site of a legendary show in 1995
A review from the gig said: “Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey took the stage for a roughly thrown together (but thoroughly wonderful) set at Waterloo Brew Club. Alternating between guitar and bass, they played two new songs of Mitch's and then, in honour of it being Saint Patrick's Day, performed ‘Condition Red’ from the original Sneakers EP. An amazing guitarist and bassist, Mitch is definitely in the same league as Entwistle when he straps on the Fender Jazz Bass. James Mastro (ex-Bongos) played acoustic guitar, and John Howie did some truly superior pounding on the skins while making faces that would scare an asylum inmate. At the end of their set, Stamey spotted Peter Holsapple in the audience and pulled him on stage to play ‘Angels’. This near dB's reunion had the audience going nuts.”


Chris & Mitch: Sneakers reunion in NYC '07
The original dB’s had started playing the occasional show together in 2005, and in January of 2007 at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC, they played a special show at which the support was Mitch’s band and opening none other than the Sneakers with Mitch, Chris, Will Rigby and Robert Keely brought out of retirement to play bass.

Sneakers returned to the live stage once more in May 2007 when former Let’s Active drummer Rob Ladd’s band The Pressure Boys played their first reunion shows after twenty years at Cat’s Cradle, two benefit shows for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Lead singer John Plymale contacted Mitch and Chris Stamey with the idea that The Sneakers could be the opening act and they happily agreed.


Mitch with The dB's - SxSW Fest, 2012





And the association continues to this day, with Mitch playing on and mixing several tracks from Falling Off the Sky and stepping in on bass for The dB's appearances at South By Southwest in Austin, TX in March 2012. 

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